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Charter Ordered to Pay $19.2 Million to Windstream for Tricking Its Customers

Windstream headquarters
(Image credit: Windstream)

A New York federal judge has ordered Charter Communications to pay nearly $19.2 million in damages to Windstream, ruling that the No. 2 U.S. cable operator tried to trick Windstream’s customers into switching over when the company was restructuring in bankruptcy court in 2019. 

“Don’t risk losing your internet and TV services,” Charter warned Windstream customers in a letter sent to them in 2019. “Windstream has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which means uncertainty. Will they be able to provide the Internet and TV services you rely on in the future?”

Here's the ad:

Charter Communications ad

(Image credit: Charter Communications)

Charter even sent the letters in envelopes featuring Windstream’s logo and corporate colors. 

Key fact: Littlerock, Arkansas-based Windstream was restructuring, but it wasn’t going out of business. Windstream announced in September that it had successfully emerged from bankruptcy protection, shedding more than $4 billion in debt. It exited 2020 with 60 new customers and a war chest of around $2 billion to spend on network upgrades for its Kinetic broadband and TV clients. The company's enterprise division remains the biggest supplier of SD-WAN service in the U.S. You can read a full FAQ of the company's improved economic health here

In May 2019 Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York ordered Charter to send another round of letters, clarifying that its earlier claims had been “untrue and improper.”

And last week, Judge Drain ordered Charter to pay $19.179 million to Windstream “for their literally false and intentionally misleading advertising campaign that wrongfully interfered with the Debtors’ customer contracts and goodwill.” 

“We are gratified that Judge Drain’s ruling means Charter will have to pay a significant price for its egregious false advertising,” said Kristi Moody, executive VP and general counsel for Windstream, in a statement. “Charter knew full well what it was doing when it embarked on a dishonest scare-tactic campaign to lure away our customers. At Windstream, we will always aggressively defend ourselves and our customers against predatory schemes and meritless allegations.”

Charter reps didn't immediately respond to Next TV's inquiry for comment. 

Interestingly, Ars Technica unearthed a Reuters story from 2009, detailing how a pre-AT&T DirecTV tried to do pretty much the same thing to Charter when it was under bankruptcy protection a little more than a decade back. Charter successfully sued DirecTV over those ads in 2009.